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India digs its heels in the Indian Ocean with Navy chief’s visit to Maldives and Seychelles

India's Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) Admiral R Hari Kumar with Seychelles President Wavel Ramkalawan (Image courtesy: Indian Navy)


With the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) Admiral R Hari Kumar choosing Maldives and now Seychelles as his first overseas visit after assuming office, India has once again shown that it is digging its heels in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).  

Admiral Hari Kumar’s visit follows the landing in India of Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, Prime Minister of Mauritius—another key country in the Indian Ocean with which New Delhi has a strong cultural and security connect.
During his three-day visit from April 21- 23, the CNS met the top leadership of Seychelles — President Wavel Ramkalawan, Foreign Minister Sylvestre Radegonde and Defence Chief Brigadier Michael Rosette.  

Besides focusing on further strengthening bilateral defence cooperation, Admiral Kumar presented a Navigation Chart of Port Victoria prepared by the National Hydrographic Office (NHO) of India under the MoU on bilateral hydrographic cooperation.

The visit comes at a time when Indian Naval Ship Sharda is currently in Seychelles after escorting Coast Guard Ship Zoroaster, a vessel sourced from an Indian Shipyard (GRSE, Kolkata) in 2021, back to Seychelles after its recent deployment to India for participation in MILAN-22 and Guarantee Refit.

The Indian Defence Ministry said that interactions of the CNS at Seychelles set in motion a promising trajectory of further growth in the scale and scope of bilateral defence engagements, founded on the principles of SAGAR (Security And Growth for All in the Region) and the ‘Five S’ Vision of Sammaan (Respect) – Samvaad (Dialogue) – Sahyog (Cooperation) – Shanti (Peace) and Samriddhi (Prosperity) articulated by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

While Brigadier Michael Rosette hosted the CNS for a luncheon at the headquarters of the country's defence forces, the leadership of the Seychelles Defence Forces (SDF) attended a reception onboard INS Sharda hosted jointly by General Dalbir Singh Suhag (Retd), High Commissioner of India to Seychelles and the CNS.

Admiral Hari Kumar highlighted the significance accorded by both countries to collaborative approach towards maritime security in the Indian Ocean. In this context, the CNS deeply appreciated the active participation of Seychelles in the Goa Maritime Conclave, MILAN and Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS).

The Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) had arrived in Seychelles after wrapping his three-day visit to Maldives.

During the visit, he called on Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamad Solih, Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid, Defence Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi and the Chief of Defence Force (CDF) Major General Abdulla Shamaal.

Admiral Kumar had hosted a reception onboard Indian Naval Ship Sutlej on April 18 in honour of the Defence Minister of Maldives and the leadership of Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF). INS Sutlej, is currently deployed to Maldives for undertaking joint hydrographic survey under the MoU on hydrographic cooperation. The CNS unveiled the first Navigation Chart jointly produced by India and Maldives and handed over hydrography equipment to consolidate organic capabilities of the MNDF.

The CNS also visited MNDF maritime assets and complimented the joint efforts of MNDF personnel and the Indian Navy for maintaining role worthiness of these assets. He presented a consignment of engineering equipment for further sustenance of MNDF ships, thereby reaffirming India’s commitment to the capacity building efforts of the MNDF.

The last few months have witnessed several high level interactions between the two countries. The Defence Minister of Maldives was the Chief Guest at the Passing Out Parade of Indian Naval Academy in November 2021 and Col Ibrahim Hilmy, Commandant of Maldives Coast Guard led the Maldives Delegation at MILAN-2022 hosted by India at Visakhapatnam in February 2022. India and Maldives share common perspectives on maritime security issues in the Indian Ocean and have been working together closely in several bilateral, mini-lateral and multilateral fora such as the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium and the Colombo Security Conclave.

With Mauritius whose Prime Minister spent a week in India, the two countries are working together on countering terrorism and radicalisation; combating trafficking and transnational organised crime; cyber security, protection of critical infrastructure and technology; and, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

India has also extended full support to Mauritius, a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country, as it tackles the outreach of violent extremist ideologies after some of its citizens joined terror groups like the ISIS and Al Qaeda.

Also Read: China, radical Islam stand out on the security agenda of India and Mauritius